In this chapter, we explain how prevent burning out by taking care of yourself and others. We discuss group wellbeing, action wellbeing and self-help.
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Being an activist can be rewarding, but also challenging and stressful. You may face many pressures and risks, such as burnout, trauma, harassment, or violence. That's why it's important to take care of your wellbeing and mental health, not only for yourself, but also for your cause and your community. In this guide, we will share some tips and resources on how to practice self-care, cope with stress, and seek support when you need it. We hope this guide will help you to stay healthy, resilient, and effective in your activism.Why is wellbeing important?
Articles about wellbeing practices that you can implement as a group:
Articles about wellbeing practices that you can implement during your actions:
Articles for individuals that want to take care of their own wellbeing:
Articles that have been written to cover special issues that are currently relevant (also make sure to check out campaigns that we support):
Activists who work for social change often face challenges and risks that can affect their wellbeing. However, the local context across countries can also impact how activists cope with these challenges and access support. Some of the factors that can influence the wellbeing of activists in different contexts are:
The political and legal environment: Activists may face different levels of repression, censorship, surveillance, harassment, intimidation, or violence from the state or other actors depending on the country they operate in. This can create a climate of fear, stress, and insecurity that can undermine their mental and physical health. Activists may also have different degrees of freedom and protection to express their views, organize, mobilize, or access justice and legal aid.
The social and cultural norms: Activists may encounter different expectations, values, beliefs, or stereotypes from their families, communities, or society at large depending on the country they live in. This can affect their sense of identity, belonging, or acceptance as well as their relationships and social support networks. Activists may also face different forms of discrimination, stigma, or marginalization based on their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, or other aspects of their identity or work.
The availability and accessibility of resources: Activists may have different opportunities and challenges to access resources that can enhance their wellbeing depending on the country they work in. This can include financial resources, such as funding, grants, or donations; material resources, such as equipment, tools, or infrastructure; human resources, such as staff, volunteers, or allies; and informational resources, such as data, evidence, or knowledge. Activists may also have different options and barriers to access services that can support their wellbeing, such as health care, education, counseling, or therapy.
The diversity and solidarity of the activist community: Activists may have different experiences of working with other activists within or across movements depending on the country they collaborate in. This can affect their sense of solidarity, trust, cooperation, or learning as well as their exposure to conflicts, tensions, or competition. Activists may also have different levels of diversity and inclusion within their movements based on the representation and participation of different groups and perspectives.
These factors can shape how activists perceive and respond to the challenges and risks they face as well as the strategies and practices they adopt to take care of their wellbeing. Therefore, it is important to understand and respect the local context across countries when supporting activists' wellbeing and to tailor the support according to their specific needs and realities.
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Why is wellbeing important?
This chapter is meant as a guide on how to safeguard the wellbeing of activists. In the process of trying to make a change, you might forget about your own wellbeing. You will learn how why the wellbeing of you and your fellow change-makers is vital for the long term effectiveness of your movement.
Many activists struggle with their mental and physical health, or see how the wellbeing of fellow change-makers is affected by activism. You might experience stress because you feel your contributions do not create any significant change. You might feel disappointed with yourself for not doing enough, or you feel helpless because others are not doing enough. You might fear being infiltrated by police or oppositional activists groups, and are not sure anymore who to trust.
This chapter is about acknowledging those difficulties and providing help for those who need it. In addition, we will talk about how to prevent mental and physical health issues. As so well put by Håkan Geijer: “Be gentle with each other so we can be dangerous together.”
Improve this page
You can contribute: Whatever your experiences as activist are, they are valid and deserve to be heard. We want to provide the opportunity for people all over the world to share exchange their experiences. This way we can learn from each other and find comfort in our welcoming community.
Please make sure to treat each other with respect and dignity. You are free to share your experiences anonymously, if that makes you feel more comfortable. Find out more about how to contribute.
Write about topics that lots of people have questions about:
eco/climate anxiety, climate depression
Collect the most valuable resources on climate anxiety
Topics not covered a lot yet: Culture, Spirituality, Community
Make wellbeing guides more science-based (perhaps interview psychologists that have experience with activism?)
Monthly global searches*
negative effects of activism
positive effects of activism
keep activists motivated
How to deal with burnout
protest medical kit
medic pepper sprayed
self-care tools for activists
mental health resources for activists
*According to Semrush
Google Drive: Collection of mental health resources by Activist Handbook
Wellbeing and regenerative culture by Extinction Rebellion
Impacts of activism on health and wellbeing by The Commons
10 Great Resources on Activist Wellbeing by The Commons
Thriving Activist Toolkit by Center for the Advancement of Well-Being
Support & recovery by Code Rood
Consent Advocacy by Extinction Rebellion
Trauma Informed Design by TID
Wellbeing by The Commons Social Change Library
Personal ecology self-assessment kit from Mozilla.
How Organizations and Leaders Can Support Community Self-Care from Network Weaver
De-escalation Training Workshop by Extinction Rebellion [Video]
A Resource for Activists Working Through Trauma by Roots of Change Collective
Holding Our Groups Together in Hard Times by Holly Hammond
Collection: Wellbeing by ILGA-Europe Hub
How to Give Psychological First Aid (PFA) by ILGA-Europe Hub
Wellbeing during COVID-19 by ILGA-Europe Hub
Spirituality and Community Building
Diversity & inclusivity
Power Dynamics and Inclusivity in Virtual Meetings by Evelyn Arellano